The decision was arrived at after a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, following which the Ministry said the situation will be assessed on June 1 and the new dates will be announced thereafter. Students of Class 10 will be evaluated based on internal assessments.
The move has invited a mixed bag of reactions from the educational fraternity as well as parents and the student community. On one hand, many who had petitioned the CBSE and the Centre to put off the exams, on account of the spike in COVID cases, have heaved a sigh of relief, considering the students will not be put through the hassle of exams at a time of a health crisis. But on the other hand, many stakeholders also bemoaned the knee-jerk reaction of the Centre, which they say is complicit in playing with the future of these students.
It may be recalled that last year, the pandemic had just begun in India, and a nationwide lockdown was imposed as students were in the midst of appearing for their board exams. As a precautionary measure, exams were postponed, and when rescheduled, it was decided that exams would be conducted only for core subjects essential for promotion and admission to higher educational institutions. Subjects that were dropped for Class 12 included foreign and regional languages, while the Class 10 exclusions were ICT and computer applications.
However, as the pandemic raged on, CBSE decided that these remaining exams would not be conducted. Instead, students would be marked based on an alternative marking system for the papers in which they had not appeared. The protocol involved calculating the average of best of three papers (for students who appeared in four exams) and a best of two (for candidates who appeared in three exams), and an internal assessment for students who took two or fewer exams. Class 12 students also got an option to appear in online compartment exams and optional improvement exams in September, which was not available for Class 10 students. In Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami announced in February that students of Class 9, 10 and 11 would be promoted to the next class without having to appear in any examinations. The state board exams for Class 12 students are presently scheduled to be held from May 5 to May 31 in TN.
We must consider what is at stake if students are once again put through the rigmarole of uncertainty – vis-à-vis their examinations. For starters, a normalisation of grading will become the order of the day, where high performing students will be equated on the same criteria as the average performing students. While the fallout might seem minuscule at face value, this exerts a higher pressure on teachers, as educators will be compelled to impart lessons to students from the ground up – which in turn will be redundant for some students and subsequently prolong the duration of learning, as well as dilute its quality.
Instead of outright cancellation, some consideration could have been given to exploring an online mode of appearing for the exams, for which a framework could have been drafted over the past few months when schools had been running empty. Undoubtedly, students have been through a tumultuous year. But if the government opts for ‘easy way out’ solutions like an all-pass for all candidates, students will have to prepare for a ripple effect of this decision in the long run, as Class 10 boards are just the start of a series of challenges they will face as they advance in their academics.